When Jo-Ann Morris completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Architecture at the University Of Technology (UTech) and secured a job in her field of study, she was unaware that just a few years later she would be embarking on a completely different career path.
It was her mother’s search for a solution to an apparent allergic reaction to regular soaps that would result in Morris creating the ‘Rachael Lane’ brand, which produces handmade soaps and soy candles.
“My mother…started researching how to make soap. We would make a batch and give it to friends and family to try and over time, we kept making more soaps and giving them away. Around the same time, I bought a candle starter kit and I started experimenting with making candles, so my mother was making soaps and I was doing the candles,” she tells government news agency JIS.
She says that creating soaps and candles had become an expensive hobby and in early 2019, they decided to approach the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) for assistance on how to market the products.
She says at JBDC, they were advised to register and provide samples of the items, but they did not follow through at the time, as they were busy with their regular jobs.
However, it was shortly before being made redundant from her full-time job, that Morris saw an advertisement for JBDC’s Design Fusion and decided to apply.
“I had gone to a (JBDC) seminar before and they had brought up the fact that there is a programme, which takes persons from concept to an actual product.
“So I applied even though I was unsure of how I’d attend because the sessions were during the (work) week, but by the time I was accepted into the programme, I was out of a job,” she related.
In October 2019, she was among a group of 24 creative entrepreneurs that participated in the JBDC Design Fusion, which is a specialised design-based development programme for emerging fashion and gift and craft designers.
The programme showcases the creative industries and provides opportunities for entrepreneurs operating in the space.
Morris tells said her participation in the three-month programme provided her with the support she needed to formalise her ‘Rachael Lane’ brand.
“The way the programme was organised, we had two set days – one was business and the other was design day. From those sessions, I have set up my accounting system. They also required us to be registered so I got that out of the way and that will enable me to access certain services,” she explains.
Morris says her time in the JBDC Design Fusion programme also helped her to cement her brand identity and gain exposure across different platforms.
“Going to the programme weekly forced me to commit to coming up with the product and fine-tuning my branding and from that, I was able to go to the ‘Jamaican Made Christmas’ exhibition and that gave me a very big boost. I also did a television interview and that gave me publicity,” she adds.
She notes that the interactions also “forced me to come out of my shell a little bit as I had to make a lot of phone calls and also establish business relationships. I am much more comfortable than I was when I just started,” she says.